Friday, March 05, 2010

Kipling at the J J School of Art.

When I was in school, I used to go into the dean’s bungalow in the campus of the Sir J J. Institute Of Applied Art and collect ‘gunja’ or the red beads that fell into its compound from the red sandalwood / bead tree also referred to as Ratangunj in Marathi. In olden times, it is said that goldsmiths used to use these red beads as weights.

My visits were because of the fact that I studied at the next-door St Xavier’s High School and used to visit my sister who was a commercial arts student at the J.J School. Many years later as I developed an interest in Mumbai’s history, I came to know that the dean’s bungalow where we collected the red beads was historic as the well known Scottish born author and poet Rudyard Kipling was born here on December 13, 1865. Of course, the bungalow in which he was born was pulled down and another (shown below) was built in its place.

Rudyard’s father, John Lockwood Kipling was the first Principal of the J.J. School of Art. The J.J. School was funded by Sir Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy, designed by George Twigge Molecey and opened in 1857 with additional buildings constructed between 1878 and 1907. Eminent architect, George Wittet who also taught at the Architecture school designed the School Of Architecture building. He has designed other Mumbai buildings like The Gateway of India, Prince Of Wales Museum (now Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya), G.P.O., Institute of Science, The Small Causes Court and Wadia and K.E.M Hospitals.

Here’s what Kipling wrote about Bombay in his ‘To the city of Bombay

The Cities are full of pride,
Challenging each to each --
This from her mountain-side,
That from her burthened beach.

They count their ships full tale --
Their corn and oil and wine,
Derrick and loom and bale,
And rampart's gun-flecked line;
City by City they hail:
"Hast aught to match with mine?"

And the men that breed from them
They traffic up and down,
But cling to their cities' hem
As a child to their mother's gown.

When they talk with the stranger bands,
Dazed and newly alone;
When they walk in the stranger lands,
By roaring streets unknown;
Blessing her where she stands
For strength above their own.

(On high to hold her fame
That stands all fame beyond,
By oath to back the same,
Most faithful-foolish-fond;
Making her mere-breathed name
Their bond upon their bond.)

So thank I God my birth
Fell not in isles aside --
Waste headlands of the earth,
Or warring tribes untried --
But that she lent me worth
And gave me right to pride.

Surely in toil or fray
Under an alien sky,
Comfort it is to say:
"Of no mean city am I!"

(Neither by service nor fee
Come I to mine estate --
Mother of Cities to me,
For I was born in her gate,
Between the palms and the sea,
Where the world-end steamers wait.)

Now for this debt I owe,
And for her far-borne cheer
Must I make haste and go
With tribute to her pier.

And she shall touch and remit
After the use of kings
(Orderly, ancient, fit)
My deep-sea plunderings,
And purchase in all lands.
And this we do for a sign
Her power is over mine,
And mine I hold at her hands!

                                                                                                                                  Gillian Tindall in her book, 'The City of Gold' clarifies the reason why Kipling used the words “between the palms and the sea”. “When Kipling was born land – reclamation was only just beginning and the bay beyond the railway lines wasn’t yet filled up by the then Alexandra (now Indira) docks. The railway itself was a newcomer. The V.T.Terminus (now C.S.T) was not yet built and instead there was a small station called Bori Bunder named after an old wharf. So the Kiplings’ bungalow, with the trees of the maidan behind it could literally have been described as ‘between the palms and the sea’.

Another Rudyard Kiplings’ Mumbai connection is that of the beautifully sculpted marble panels in bas-relief on the Crawford market and the decorative panel of tutelary animals and the Indian River Goddess on the fountain inside the Crawford Market. They were crafted by Rudyard Kipling’s father, John Lockwood Kipling.

Coming back to the bungalow, currently it is lying vacant and there was some talk about it being converted into a Museum but not naming it after Kipling. Hope they preserve the bungalow and if you have the time take a stroll into the beautiful J.J. School campus and look it up like so many foreign tourists who come clutching a copy of The Lonely Planet asking for directions of the Kipling bungalow.

3 comments: said...

Thank you Abodh. Many people living in Bombay does'nt know about Bombay (now Mumbai). Best.
MuraleeDaran Raghavan
The Verdict

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

The architecture of both the Dean's bungalow and the bungalow built to replace Kipling's bungalow is breathtaking! I see elements of Art Noveau / neoclassicism in the Dean's bungalow, yet at the same time, there is still something quintessentially Indian about it! Simply beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Hi Abodh, many thanks for ur photos of cover page of book Anchoring a city line over here...., Could u pls post a full scale version as the top and bottom are cut out. Thanks in advance. Not to forget that ur wrk on stray dogs is commendable, its an eye opener. Also cant he Kipling bungalow be visited just for photographing.